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5 Essential things to do in Battambang, Cambodia

by Emiel Van Den Boomen

Things to do in BattambangAt first glance it seems like Battambang is a sleepy, rural city with not really much to do. Luckily there is more to Battambang than first meets the eye!

Arriving in Battambang Cambodia

There is an underlying sense of relaxation when you arrive in Battambang. On our first evening we were looking for a restaurant downtown and were about to cross the street. From far away a motorbike slowly approached; no hurry. No cars in sight. A stray dog was looking at us; waiting for our next move. We heard the sound of kids playing. Laughter from a nearby house.

City of Battambang CambodiaWe looked at each other and said: it’s is so quiet here compared to Phnom Pen and Siem Reap. We can actually cross the street without almost being run over!

Relaxing in Battambang

Battambang is ideal for a bit of relaxation. We somewhat found it difficult to unwind after all the excitement during the first part of our trip: the amazing temples of Angkor, the bustling city of Phnom Penh and the terrifying Killing Fields.

OK, there might be a chance that you find Battambang boring. But really, take your time to discover the city and most of all its backlands! In the backlands of Battambang we really discovered the rural Cambodian life.

Things to do in BattambangWhat are the best ways to discover Battambang? Well, just rent yourself a bike on Day One and ask a TukTuk driver to show you around on Day Two! Life is simple sometimes…

Battambang by bike

Regular visitors of my blog will recognize this piece of advice: rent a bicycle! It’s definitely the easiest way to get in touch with local people and overall just the best way to discover a place. There are several bike rental shops around town and probably your hotel can offer you some bikes as well. Prices are ok: everywhere between 1 and 4 USD for a regular bike (check our 1 USD bike on the picture below!)

Things to do in BattambangRental shops will probably have some bike tours, but we just went on our own tour with a simple guiding principle: follow the river! If you are o.k. with 1-2 hours of biking fun, just follow the Sangkea river up North and you will meet lots of local kids, great food stalls, small villages and a lot of peace and quiet. We went all the way up North to the Ek Phnom temple.

Things to do in Battambang

City of Battambang CambodiaDuring our bike tour we talked to an (outdoor) hairdresser who not only showed us his work but also his house and family! We visited a crocodile farm (not the touristy one charging you a hefty 10 USD entrance fee but one we ran into by accident), an abandoned Pepsi factory (!), great food stalls and lots of kids jumping into the river to cool down and have fun. Promise, you will have a fab time!


Battambang by TukTuk

So that’s Day One. For the second day I would like you to ask a TukTuk driver to show you around for a day. Don’t forget to negotiate about the price by the way.

The backlands of Battambang are really impressive: the bamboo train, Killing Caves (yes, as gruesome as its name), old French mansions, and beautiful temples hidden in the forest.

City of Battambang CambodiaWe had a great guy who was able to explain all about the history of Battambang. We started with some places in the city itself. Do you recognize the French influences?

City of Battambang CambodiaOf course a visit to Battambang is not a real visit to Battambang when you have ‘done’ the famous Bamboo train! Read all about it in a special post. After the Bamboo train we drove for 30-45 minutes all the way to Sampeu hill. This was some impressive visit I can tell you.

Things to do in BattambangYou probably read on my blog about the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng prison. Sampue hill hides the worst and most gruesome example of human atrocity: the killing caves. During the Pol Pot regime people were killed here in the most appalling way: standing on the edge of the cave, people were hit by a wooden club and fell down.

Things to do in Battambang

Hundreds, thousands of bodies ended up on the bottom of the cave. You can visit the cave and yes, we also went down the stairs….to return quite quickly again. Although local kids who accompanied us kept on laughing and playing, I was really shocked by this place.

Things to do in Battambang

Battambang Cambodia caveYou don’t have to visit the killing caves if you don’t want to. You can also just enjoy Sampeu hill with a colorful monastery on top, superb views, lots of monkeys running around, Buddha caves and a real bat cave where you can witness thousands of bats flying out at sunset. The hill is definitely worth the trip from Battambang.

Things to do in Battambang

Battambang temples

Things to do in BattambangAround the corner of our hotel we discovered an area where people live in houses build from nothing more than corrugated sheets. Don’t worry, feel free to walk around and have a chat. You will be surprised by the warm welcome you will get… that’s Battambang. That’s part of the real Cambodian life.

Things to do in BattambangWe had a wonderful hotel in Battambang with a friendly staff: DeLux Villa.

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[…] a tuk tuk tour to Sampeau Hill and its […]

Joseph Bloggs December 10, 2017 - 00:55

Nice blog. And a breath of fresh air from other similar sites.
You may want to reconsider the adjective ‘impressive’ to describe the killing fields however…

Emiel Van Den Boomen December 10, 2017 - 10:58

Hi Joseph. First of all thanks for the compliment. Always good to hear that people like the content you are creating. I hear what you are saying about the word ‘impressive’. I am not a native English speaker. I just looked up synonyms for Impressive, and they were all positive: excellent, marvellous, etc. That is not what I meant with Impressive, as you can understand. I don’t want to express any kind of admiration. My aim was to describe the feeling of having a deep impact, something that you will never forget. Better words could be: struck, terrifying. Thanks for notifying.

Black9 June 17, 2017 - 09:51

Very nice blog, thanks for sharing! I am plannning to go in July. I am planning to go to Sieam Reap – Battambang – Phnom Penh. Should I stay overnight in BB or I can simply have a day tour from SR? Also, the killing field is new PP, right?

Emiel Van Den Boomen June 18, 2017 - 12:51

Great to hear you will be visiting BB and thanks for the compliments about my blog. What I remember is that BB was still quite a way out from SR. The bus took around 4 hours? Not 100% sure, but something like that. So I would definitely recommend to stay overnight. BB is a town to relax a bit, so don’t rush 🙂
The Killing Fields are near PP, I think it was like 30 minute drive from PP center.
When you stay in BB a bit longer you can also visit the so-called killing caves. Astonishing and creepy place, but all linked to the terrible history of the country.
Good luck with your preps!

Cameron Young May 27, 2017 - 12:53

Hello Emiel. I like your blog. My friends and I are planning to go to Battambang in Sept 2017 from Phnom Pehn. Do you have any suggestions for transport? Bus? car? we are planning to go to Siem Reap afterwards. I would appreciate any advice for transport to there as well.

Emiel Van Den Boomen May 27, 2017 - 13:47

Hi Cameron! Thanks and great to know you will be traveling to these beautiful places. We traveled from Siem Reap to Battambang and back by bus. No problems, great connection. Would highly recommend it. You can buy your bus tickets locally, just ask at your hotel. I think busses also connect Phnom Penh to Battambang, but that I am not sure about. Guess that trip will be a bit longer. Have fun!

Luxury Travel Vietnam, LTD March 9, 2016 - 03:10

Nice one, as a tour operator we always include at least a day to our itineraries for those fellow traveler who want to experience something different in Cambodia. Nice blog btw

Emiel van den Boomen March 9, 2016 - 20:04

Thanks for the compliment!

한기원 November 2, 2015 - 14:29

Battambang is my parent’s hometown. Hope to go one day!!

David November 1, 2014 - 21:54

Thanks for this great blog about Battambang. I was unsure if I wanted to go, but this has motivated me to fit it in between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Even if it is “boring,” it sounds like it will be a welcome break between the other two cities. Cheers!

Abbi Morrison August 24, 2014 - 09:28

Love your blog .. just discovered it through this post. I love to travel beyond the guidebook and discover off the beaten track places. A lot of visitors to Cambodia have told me to skip Battambang, as it is ‘boring’ but this post has shown me that it most certainly isn’t! I’ve just booked a bus ride there for tomorrow. Thanks for the info. Safe travels

Emiel van den Boomen August 24, 2014 - 13:30

So happy to hear that Abbi, thanks for leaving a comment! Please let us know how you felt about Battambang, ok?

Bronwyn Joy June 11, 2014 - 08:55

Battambang is one of our all-time favourite places to visit. We’ve been twice – once before the kids and once with them. It’s definitely a relaxed place, but there’s still plenty to fill up a few days as you’ve pointed out – and more if you don’t mind slowing down to soak up the atmosphere. Love your article and very much agree with all of it!

Emiel van den Boomen June 11, 2014 - 17:13

Thanks a lot. Nice to know you have been there twice already! So if we need more travel tips I guess we can contact you right? 🙂

Bronwyn Joy June 12, 2014 - 13:08

I don’t know about that – you seem to have got around to quite a lot! The second time we had young kids along so we spent a long time doing things like kicking around on the bank of the river (literally – the locals were happy to let the kids join in their games of chapteh). It was nice but I didn’t collect too many sightseeing tips from it (although “kick around on the river bank” is definitely a good one!)

Bama June 8, 2014 - 08:02

Battambang is not in most tourists’ list when they visit Cambodia, and from your photos I can tell that it makes the town worth a visit. Aren’t there ancient temples as well near the town?

Emiel van den Boomen June 9, 2014 - 22:11

Hi Bama! Yes, there are some, for example near Phnom Ek (the place we went to with our bikes). But I guess there are far more around town!

sopheakpich December 14, 2015 - 04:20

Baset temple. Sneung temple, Banan Temple and Ek Phnom Temple

Dennis Kopp June 5, 2014 - 17:37

Thanks for the great tips on Battambang Emiel! I too always like to rent a bike to explore a town or an area. It really is the best way to get around and mingle with the locals.
A few years back, I visited the killing fields, but I had no idea that also these killing caves existed. It must have been quite a gruesome place to visit…

Emiel van den Boomen June 5, 2014 - 21:22

Pleasure Dennis, thanks for your comment! We became aware of the caves right after arrival in Battambang. Although gruesome, I am glad we visited the place. Did you also do the Bambootrain? Must-do or just a tourist trap??

Dennis Kopp July 19, 2014 - 13:52

I have only heard of the the Bamboo Train. It sounded a bit like tourist trap, but maybe I would still check it out when in the area again… 🙂


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